Oral argument in the Oregon Court of Appeals case Re v. PERS has been set for August 23, 2012. The argument will take place in the Oregon Supreme Court Courtroom and is listed as the first case in the morning session which starts at 9 am.
This case challenges the ability of Oregon judges who are PERS members to decide PERS cases and it is the first time that such a challenge has been made. In every other Oregon PERS case, there is no indication that the authority of a PERS judge to decide the case was ever questioned.
Oregon PERS was created in 1945. For the first 38 years that PERS existed, Oregon judges had their own independent retirement plan and were not allowed to join PERS. During this period, Oregon judges were neutral when they decided PERS cases. But in 1983 the Oregon legislature passed a new law that became effective January 1, 1984 which required the judges to join PERS. That law took away the judges’ neutrality on PERS cases and deprived the people of Oregon of their constitutional and statutory rights to independent judges in PERS cases.
While the specific legal issue in RE v. PERS appears to be narrow, it is not. It is much broader than whether PERS judges can be the judge of their own case. The real issue is whether the Oregon legislature can take away a fundamental right of the people. A right that is guaranteed to them by Oregon statutes, by the Oregon Constitution and by the U.S. Constitution.
Our constitutional rights were created by the people to protect us from governmental abuse. If the legislature can negate our rights that protect us from the legislature, then we really have no constitutional rights. They would simply be an illusion that the legislature can take away from us at its whim. I am certain the legislature can not do that and that is why I have filed this lawsuit. The final outcome of this case is critically important to all Oregonians.